Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When it comes to 'Fun Home,' Leon Stavrinakis tries to have it both ways

Leon: Award winning book is 'inappropriate'

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM

A sunny springtime day.

An unexpected thank you from a peer.

A child's laugh.

A bottle of bourbon. 

There are few things in life that are better than these.

And a good ole fashioned Twitter fight is one of them.

Earlier today, I got in one such melee with state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis. It wasn't the first, and I hope it isn't the last. 

Now, I'm not going to gloat. Truth be told, I think Leon got in the last dig, so he can call it a victory if he likes — not that anyone should be proud of winning a Twitter fight — that is unless you're a twit.

The whole thing began when Leon responded to South Carolina political reporter Corey Hutchins after he had posted a link to a New York Times story about the recent CofC-Glenn McConnell controversy and this whole Fun Home BS.


Of course, this struck me as odd since I didn't recall Leon being one the voices lambasting his fellow legislators who voted to punish CofC for distributing Fun Home to incoming first-year students. He didn't pen an op-ed. He didn't join the protestors. He remained mum. And so I responded, accusing him and state Rep. Bakari Sellers — who had also dropped a tweet criticizing Fun Home's homophobic critics — of waiting until the national press picked up the story before stepping up and doing what they should have done a long time ago — tell the GOPers in the General Assembly who voted for the Fun Home punishment they're homophobic assholes, albeit in more politically chaste terms.


As it stands, I was wrong. Leon actually had condemned the vote, telling the P&C, "I don't approve of the material. But I'm not going to sit here as a legislator and punish the school." Which, of course, was even worse than keeping quiet.  (Bakari, like Leon, voted against the measure, but whatever anger he apparently felt about the punishment has been largely out of the public eye.)

And so, I asked Leon, rather publicly, to explain exactly why he found Fun Home unacceptable, if not objectionable, reading material. 

Leon also said that "it's not my job as a legislator to approve college reading based on my personal opinions," adding, "and I sure would never censor or punish a school through funding cuts based on that personal opinion." And that position is certainly worthy of applause. But it's just not enough. 

Especially when Leon has this to say about Fun Home:



Of course, that statement doesn't really answer John Warner's question, but it shows you that Stavrinakis is far more aligned with the fundies in the General Assembly than he isn't. Apparently, black-and-white drawings of two lesbians engaged in an HBO-level of lovemaking is far too graphic for his sensitive soul — and clearly inappropriate for college-aged students, the majority of whom have seen far more intense depictions of human sexuality in action and perhaps have engaged in it themselves. The horror, the horror, the come on now, asshole, keep the camera still. And no fucking night vision.

When it comes down to it, Stavrinakis, much like Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen, wants to have it both ways. He wants to be seen as someone who is for academic freedom and against censorship, for progressive causes and policies, but he also doesn't want to alienate the right-wing voters who find all that gay stuff to be too icky (It's worth noting that up until recently President Barack Obama was the same way. Such a tactic was as shameful then as it is now).

As a member of the progressive party, Leon shouldn't be content with merely casting a vote against this bit of bible-beating, anti-LGBT nonsense. He should be taking his fellow legislators to task. Make no mistake, it's what the other side would do. In fact, righteous indignation is their main MO.

And therein lies the rub. While the members of the S.C. Republican Party feel compelled to raise their voices each and every time their narrow-minded worldview is challenged, the state Dems rarely so much as mumble a complaint, under their breath or otherwise. The Right in this state knows how to use the media to their advantage. They call up talk radio shows and rant and rave. They rally the troops on social media. They refuse to remain silent and they refuse to back down until they have won. But the Dems, well, I really don't know what they do — send out a press release attacking Nikki Haley for icing up the Ravenel Bridge? Allude to allegations that Lindsey Graham is gay? 

What makes all of this even more embarrassing is the fact that Nikki Haley has since come out against this bit of Statehouse bigotry. Yikes.

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